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This class activity cast students in the roles of researchers and research respondents. Students learn basic practical and epistemological distinctions between quantitative and qualitative research traditions in sociology by collaborating in the production of knowledge about their own social world.
Through a series of low-stakes assignments, students are required to read, assess, and properly cite four peer-reviewed empirical research articles. The articles reflect the four core methodologies that we devote the most time to in class (surveys, fieldwork, secondary data, and content analysis). By reading and answering questions, student’s knowledge of research design and concepts specific to particular forms of methodology are reinforced, and students gain confidence reading full-length, scholarly, empirical research articles. They also learn to correctly construct a bibliographic reference using ASA formatting. Discussion of each article occurs when we learn about each specific form of methodology in the course.
Students begin a survey assignment on the first day of a research methods course. It is broken into manageable parts so as to build their confidence while they begin to learn the basics of research methods. I discuss one part during each class over the first 4 weeks and link these parts to many of the foundational concepts of research methods. Since they choose their own topic for the assignment, they become engaged in the course material right away, which bolsters their motivation. Upon completion, they have a solid base upon which they can learn more advanced methodological concepts and other specific methodologies during the rest of the course.